TOPEKA — Juvenile group homes in Kansas will be subject to twice-a-year outside reviews under changes being imposed by the state Juvenile Justice Authority.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Russ Jennings, the head of the juvenile authority, also received support this past week from a legislative committee to use a uniform test to assess the risk juveniles pose. And facilities will be rated for low-, medium- and high-risk offenders.
The changes come after the Capital-Journal reported two weeks ago about problems at the Forbes Juvenile Attention Center, a privately run group home for male juvenile offenders in Topeka.
The story highlighted a lawsuit that alleged that lax supervision made it possible for a 12-year-old boy to be repeatedly raped by his 15-year-old roommate in January 2008.
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Rep. Joe Patton, R-Topeka, a member of the Legislature's Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight, said that case prompted the new policies.
"Our youth who find themselves under the care of the JJA must be safe," Patton said. "With substantiated reports of abuse and lack of staffing at youth facilities contracted by JJA, it's apparent we need reform."
The 15-year-old boy accused of rape has been charged. The lawsuit, which is separate from the criminal case, says the victim was "small in stature, appearing younger than his stated age."
The petition says that the roommate had "the appearance of a fully grown male, and had a record or history of violence."
At least one case coordinator from the facility had earlier expressed to the court's case manager that the younger boy would be "eaten alive" at Forbes because of his small size.
Patton said the committee's support sent a message about the importance of ensuring juveniles' safety.
"We're watching, and we're going to follow up on it," he said.